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Mr. Ventura Goes to Harvard
By Martin Kaste
October 7, 1999
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Governor Ventura is on his way to New York City after spending yesterday at Harvard University. Ventura met with students and faculty behind closed doors, and he said they seem to appreciate him more than the news media do.

Governor Ventura talks to reporters before a forum with faculty and students.
Photo by Sarah E. Henrickson, Harvard Crimson.
EVEN HARVARD STUDENTS are not above hounding Governor Ventura for his autograph. After a live television appearance from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, hundreds of them mobbed the Governor, some waving copies of Playboy for him to sign, others begging him to pose for snapshots. A few asked him about more serious policy issues, and Ventura was only too happy to oblige. Holding a copy of Playboy, he explained the concept of economic monopoly to a Harvard faculty member.
Ventura: If you have one company that provides all the ketchup in the world, well then, that's not going to make it economically three, four, five viable ketchup companies.
Ventura says the students were a welcome change from his usual nemesis, the news media, because the students seemed to care about something besides the Playboy interview.
Ventura: The students got into governing, and what it's like to win the election; what it's like for a third-party candidate to deal with the two parties today, many more solid, political, governing questions, rather what makes for a good splash on the 10 o'clock news tonight. A lot more intelligence back in this room.
Ventura spent several hours meeting with faculty and students, and he says he sought some advice from the school's economists on how Minnesota should prepare itself for world competition in the 21st Century. He also says the Harvard economists confirmed his belief that public funding for sports stadiums is a money-losing policy.

But at least one Harvard scholar says the private meetings were not that Substantial.
Strother: This man doesn't have policy.
Ray Strother is a longtime Democratic political consultant, and a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Strother: There's nothing there, there's no depth there. He has quips, most of the things he did this afternoon, he used movie scenarios, like Rodney Dangerfield movies, he used scenes out of movies to explain how he felt about things. But not good movies.
Student reaction to Ventura was generally mixed. Many of them concluded that his style was more impressive than his substance. Law student Chris Wheeler says that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Wheeler: I think politics is about more than smarts, I think it's mostly about character; he seems like a good guy. I think he has some pretty mistaken views, but he seems like a genuine and honest person.
Harvard undergraduate Nicki Usher says she doubts Ventura is serious about politics.
Usher: I think he's playing a game with us. I think that he's here at Harvard at a place that never would have welcomed him five years ago, and he's just riding the wave, and just making fun of us. I think in the back of his head, he's just laughing at us.
Whatever their views on Ventura, Harvard students were susceptible to his celebrity magnetism. Mike Johnston, a grad student in education, says the build-up for Ventura's live appearance was unmistakable.
Johnston: You'd be astonished to see the competition it has been to get one of these tickets. on this campus in the last three days. It's really a coveted item
Johnston says the intense interest surprised him, given the haughty comments he's heard people make about Ventura, and he offers this explanation of Harvard's mixed emotions.
Johnston: Part of it maybe is that their ambition overcomes them, even if they don't like the means with which he's achieved what he's achieved, they still covet what it is that they have achieved.
Ventura certainly seemed pleased with his visit. He described it as Humbling, but also something of a personal triumph, telling students that if someone had told him five years ago that Harvard would invite him to speak at its school of government, he would have laughed.